Georgia Laurayne Goff – Brain Fever

Georgia L. Goff

“A very sad death which occurred, last Thursday, was that of Miss Georgia Goff, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M.S. Goff of this city. Her demise was caused from brain fever, and her illness was short.

“Georgia Laurayne Goff was born April 29, 1894 at Bloomfield Knox County, Nebraska, and died September 7, 1922, aged 28 years, four months and eight days. In 1896, she came with her parents to this county to live. Later they moved to Minnesota, returning here in 1905.

“During recent years, Miss Goff has been a resident of Des Moines, working and attending Drake University where she was a student of dramatic art and music. It is thought that it was her close application to work and studies which brought on the illness which caused her death.

“She was a quiet girl of gentle manner and disposition. She had an ambition to excel in everything good and worth while, and never lowered her high ideal although her too frail body could not stand what was required of it.

Laura Jordan Goff and her daughters Georgia and Ruby. Probably 1914 or after, Guthrie County, Iowa

“She leaves to mourn her passing, her parents, two sisters, Mrs. Leora Wilson of Stuart, and Miss Ruby Goff, and seven brothers, Merle [sic], Wayne, Jenning[s], Rolla, Willis, Perry and Clarence. One other brother preceded her in death in 1909. . . . Old friends in the persons of Fern Robertson, Bonnie McLuen, Leila Allen, Mabel Smith, Verna Davis and Pearl Cahail helped to bear the body to its last resting place.”


Comments from Leora Goff Wilson‘s memoirs: “When my sister Georgia was in her late teens, we are certain that when she had a delirium spell that it was from the fall she had when she was about 9. The doctor wouldn’t find anything wrong and she would get over that, it seemed. She took music lessons, taught music some, and went to school in Des Moines the year before she got real upset, the summer she was 28 years old. A pressure on her brain, in the forehead, it seemed–a slow buildup, we figured, after her death, which was the cause of her death. The doctors couldn’t do anything about it in those days. She passed away September 7, 1922. She was so talented and learned so easily.”

From her niece Doris Wilson Neal, memories from when she was about 4 years old: She felt comfortable with her Aunt Georgia when she visited the Wilsons in Stuart. Georgia would tuck Doris’s small hand in her pocket with her own hand to keep it warm when they walked to uptown Stuart. Once when a torn spot in the roll for their player piano made a discordant noise. It caused Georgia to make guttural noises. Leora put her arms around her sister, “Oh, Georgia, Georgia, don’t.” It frightened Doris.

Doris also witnessed one of the spells at her grandparents’ Victorian home in Guthrie Center. Her Grandfather Goff struck his daughter. Grandmother Goff cried, “Oh, Pa Pa, don’t.” He arranged for Georgia to live at the Clarinda Mental Health Center, which was such a discouragement to her. “So, Pa, that’s where you think I should go.” She died only ten days after arriving there.

I wonder whether Georgia Laurayne Goff had a brain tumor, or had developed epilepsy. She had also worked for the Carl Weeks family, who eventually built the Salisbury House in Des Moines.

Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots


  1. It’s so hard to figure out a diagnosis from this remove. Frustrating, for sure. I think many people be and despondent after being placed in an institution. I think death rates were high and came surprisingly quick.

  2. Thank you for sharing Georgia with us. I wondered, too, as I was reading whether or not she had an undiagnosed brain tumor. As always, I love the stories and the photos, Joy. 🥰

  3. I had an uncle who died when he was 29 from a brain tumor. He had received a head injury as a child when he was hit by a jeep. My relatives always thought the accident caused the eventual tumor. Poor Georgia had so much potential. It’s sad she ended up in a mental institution and didn’t die at home with her family. Of course, they had no way of knowing. Great documentation, Joy!

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